About Schools North East

Set up by schools for schools, we are the first and only school-led regional network in the UK.

In 2007, a group of Head Teachers came together to establish Schools North East. Their aim was to create a unique culture of collaboration and mutual support amongst North East schools to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of our region’s young people. Twelve years on, Schools North East is stronger than ever.

Over the years, we have worked to facilitate new projects and additional support, connect schools to each other and external organisations such as business, provide a strategic voice for our members and promote a wider understanding of the issues facing education in the North East.

Schools North East is governed by our 11 Trustees, 3 co-opted Trustees and 26 strong advisory board of local Head Teachers, elected by their peers in each area, who provide Schools North East with direction and support. We also have a core team of 10 based in Newcastle.

With a well-established annual calendar of events, a Weekly Update with a distribution of over 3,000 readers and over 3,000 Twitter Followers, Schools North East’s influence is growing both locally and nationally!

Mission and Vision

Schools North East is an inclusive network led by Head Teachers creating unique culture of collaboration and mutual support and bringing the expertise of our members to benefit developments within our region.

Our Vision

Our young people are confident, enterprising, skilled and aspiring; learning and developing within well-resourced, nurturing and purposeful school environments.

Our school leaders, governors and staff demonstrate exceptional professionalism enjoying the resounding confidence of students, parents, communities, employers and decision-makers.

Our Head Teachers have a powerful voice regionally and nationally. By working collaboratively and creatively with their peers and external partners, they develop expertise, shape policy and drive change. We are recognised as a centre for innovation and the bench-mark of excellence.

Our region is vibrant, self reliant and outward looking, featuring a dynamic economy, healthy environment and distinctive culture.


Our Trustees 

Our Board

Advisory Board Members

SunderlandSara BainbridgePrimaryBarmston Village Primary School
SunderlandClaire SmithPrimaryHill View Infant School
SunderlandAilsa TaylorPrimaryOak Learning Trust
SunderlandSarah Dixon-JonesNursery / Early YearsHoughton Community Nursery School & Mill Hill Nursery School
SunderlandPaula HegartySecondaryOxclose Community Academy
SunderlandCraig KnowlesSecondaryHetton School
SunderlandJoanne MawSecondary & Sixth FormSandhill View Academy
Stockton-on-TeesJulia ArmstrongPrimaryHartburn Primary School
South Tyneside Sir Ken GibsonSecondary & Sixth FormHarton Academy
South TynesideGemma JeynesPrimaryValley View Primary School
South Tyneside Brendan TappingSecondary & Sixth FormSt Wilfred’s RC College (South Shields)
Redcar and ClevelandCarl FaulknerPrimaryNormanby Primary
Redcar and ClevelandGrant HopkinsPrimaryLockwood Primary School
Redcar & ClevelandPeter Eyre SecondarySaltburn Learning Campus
NorthumberlandAndrew HudsonPrimaryMickley First School
NorthumberlandAndrew BennettMiddle SchoolOvingham Middle School
NorthumberlandMaurice HallHigh SchoolThe Duchess’s Community High School
North TynesidePhilip SandersonAllKing’s Priory School
North EastHugh HegartyAllNicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust
North EastZoe CarrAllWise Academies
Newcastle upon TyneSarah Holmes-CarneSecondaryKenton School
MiddlesbroughLisa BigginPrimary Ayresome Primary School
MiddlesbroughSarah LymerPrimaryAyresome Primary School
MiddlesbroughPhil LathamSecondaryMacmillan Academy
HartlepoolJo HeatonPrimaryHart Community Primary School
HartlepoolMark TillingSecondaryHigh Tunstall College of Science
GatesheadSteve HaighSecondaryWhickham School
DurhamAnnette SowdenPrimarySt Mary's RC Primary School
DurhamAndy ByersSecondaryFramwellgate School Durham
DurhamSally GreenPrimaryThornhill Primary School
DurhamDanny EasonPrimaryFishburn Primary School
DurhamDavid PriestleySecondaryGreenfield Community College
DarllingtonClaire BlackettAll through (Special Education Provision)Hurworth House School (Priory Group)
DarlingtonPeter KingPrimaryFederation of Mowden Schools Infants & Junior
DarlingtonKate ChisholmPrimarySkerne Park Academy
DarlingtonMike ButlerSecondaryEducation Village


Our Team

Chris Zarraga

Interim Director

Prior to joining Schools North East, Chris worked with over 165 schools in the North East and various education organisations including local authorities, Excellence Partnerships, 14-19 Groups, the Specialist Schools & Academies Trust, and School Improvement Officers. He led a large scale culture change project in education across the North East and was the development consultant for the LEGI funded Wansbeck Enterprise Education Network. Chris has 12 years of strategic and business development, consultancy and client-management experience at a ‘Big Four' accountancy firm and various financial institutions and an MBA from Durham University Business School.

Pauline Aitchison

Business Manager

Pauline joined Schools North East in July 2017 as Business Manager and has almost 20 years’ of education experience through working in Northumberland Schools.  She was previously a School Business Manager and also comes with Governance experience having served as both a Governor and Associate Governor in Northumberland.    She understands the challenges faced by schools and is committed to making a difference to the learning chances of pupils in the region, which is what drew her to Schools North East.

Sam Murray

Events Manager

Sam joined Schools North East in March 2017 as Events Co-ordinator and in October 2017 she was promoted to Events Manager. Sam has an extensive background in events; before joining Schools North East she worked as a Leisure Centre Supervisor providing a wide range of in-house events. Previous to this, she was an Assistant Entertainments Manager for Bourne Leisure. Sam is very passionate about providing a better future for children and young people, which is what drew her to Schools North East. 

Ben Hardy

Relationship Manager

Before joining the team at Schools North East in July 2019 as Relationship Manager, Ben spent 5 years supporting schools, Multi-Academy Trusts and Local Authorities across the country for The Key. He also has experience as a school governor at a small special school, chairing the leadership and management committee that oversaw a location move, recruitment of a new headteacher, restructure of the governing body and an Ofsted inspection.

Ben is passionate about schools and ensuring that every young person has the best possible opportunities and is looking forward to meeting you all.

Erin Doughty

Finance Assistant

Erin joined Schools North East in September 2016 as Accounts Apprentice. She has successfully completed the AAT Level 2 and 3 Certificate in Accounting . Erin is now Finance Assistant and also provides support to the whole Schools North East Team. 

Sarah Baker

Business Admin Assistant

Sarah joined Schools North East in January 2018 as a Business Admin Apprentice.  Having successfully completed the course she is now Admin Assistant and is often first point of contact when telephoning the office. 

Ellen Orange

Marketing and Communications Officer

Ellen joined Schools North East in 2019 as Marketing and Communications Officer. Before joining Schools North East she was Digital Marketing Officer at Newcastle Sixth Form College and before that worked as a Marketing Assistant for Eliesha Training. She has also worked on freelance projects with young people in the Arts and Culture sector and has a BA and MA in English Literature from Durham University.

Laura Blair

Executive Assistant

An accredited Practitioner and Fellow of the Executive & Personal Assistants Association, Laura joined Schools North East in June 2019 as Executive Assistant.  With a background in education, local authority, health and the third sector, Laura has a parent’s perspective of education and wants to help make a difference utilising the skills and experience she has accumulated over 15 years working in business support.

Rose Davison-Hayton

Events Co-ordinator

Rose joined Schools North East in September 2018 as Events Coordinator. Before joining the team at Schools North East, Rose worked for many years within the Hospitality Industry in some of the regions biggest hotels looking after many vip guests and functions so brings a wealth of events knowledge and experience with her.

Harry Goodwill

Policy Officer

Harry joined Schools North East in August 2019 as Policy Officer. Before joining Schools North East he worked in the parliamentary office of the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP for 3 years. Prior to that, he studied at Newcastle University for a BA in Politics and History, and then an MA in European History.

Colin Bancroft

Project Co-ordinator

Colin started at Schools North East as the Ednorth Project Co-ordinator in September 2019. Previously he has worked as Head of English and Humanities at Hartlepool Sixth Form College, as well as working as an English teacher in secondary schools. As Ednorth Project Co-ordinator, Colin is looking to drive a program of positive, educational change across the North East that will help to change the lives of all young people in the region. He also likes wrestling, poetry and Manchester United

School Business Manager Council

Our School Business Manager Council was founded in 2013 to build upon the existing local SBM networks, and provide a platform in every type and phase of school in the region. 

The Council aims to: 

Enable colleagues from across the region to meet and share intelligence and Best Practice with each other and their local networks;

Develop a powerful voice for the North East’s SBMs and raise their profile with Head Teachers to ensure they fully understand the contribution that SBMs make to North East schools;

Provide local and regional support, bespoke to each local area/ network.

The Council is comprised of School Business Managers from across the different sub-areas of the North East. The complete list of council members HERE